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Running down a dream

Senior Airman Lacey Kap, 460th Operations Support Squadron space systems operator on Buckley Air Force Base, Colo., poses for a photo Oct. 27th, 2016, at the NATO Headquarters Allied Air Command Inter-Nation Cross-Country Championships in Malbork, Poland. Kap took 11th place individually out of the six contributing nations, and third place for the U.S. team. (Courtesy photo)

Senior Airman Lacey Kap, 460th Operations Support Squadron space systems operator on Buckley Air Force Base, Colo., poses for a photo Oct. 27th, 2016, at the NATO Headquarters Allied Air Command Inter-Nation Cross-Country Championships in Malbork, Poland. Kap took 11th place individually out of the six contributing nations, and third place for the U.S. team. (Courtesy photo)

Senior Airman Lacey Kap, 460th Operations Support Squadron space systems operator, laces up her shoes before a workout Dec. 19, 2016, on Buckley Air Force Base, Colo. To stay conditioned, Kap does cardio exercise for an hour-and-a-half five to six times a week. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Jacob Deatherage/Released)

Senior Airman Lacey Kap, 460th Operations Support Squadron space systems operator, laces up her shoes before a workout Dec. 19, 2016, on Buckley Air Force Base, Colo. To stay conditioned, Kap does cardio exercise for an hour-and-a-half five to six times a week. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Jacob Deatherage/Released)

Senior Airman Lacey Kap, 460th Operations Support Squadron space systems operator on Buckley Air Force Base, Colo., participates in a 6k run at the 2016 NATO Headquarters Allied Air Command Inter-Nation Cross-Country Championship Oct. 27th, in Malbork, Poland. The Inter-Nation Sports program brings together the contributing allied nations in an atmosphere of friendly sporting competition. (Courtesy photo)

Senior Airman Lacey Kap, 460th Operations Support Squadron space systems operator on Buckley Air Force Base, Colo., participates in a 6k run at the 2016 NATO Headquarters Allied Air Command Inter-Nation Cross-Country Championship Oct. 27th, in Malbork, Poland. The Inter-Nation Sports program brings together the contributing allied nations in an atmosphere of friendly sporting competition. (Courtesy photo)

The U.S. Air Force women’s cross-country team poses for a photo Oct. 27th, 2016, at the NATO Headquarters Allied Air Command Inter-Nation Cross-Country Championships in Malbork, Poland. The women’s cross-country team finished in second place, however, the U.S. took first place in the overall competition of tennis, volleyball, cross-country and swimming. (Courtesy photo)

The U.S. Air Force women’s cross-country team poses for a photo Oct. 27th, 2016, at the NATO Headquarters Allied Air Command Inter-Nation Cross-Country Championships in Malbork, Poland. The women’s cross-country team finished in second place, however, the U.S. took first place in the overall competition of tennis, volleyball, cross-country and swimming. (Courtesy photo)

BUCKLEY AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- The 2016 NATO Headquarters Allied Air Command Inter-Nation Sports Championships in Malbork, Poland, brought together athletes from six nations to represent their native country in a friendly, yet competitive environment.

Representing the United States in the cross-country championships was Senior Airman Lacey Kap, 460th Operations Support Squadron space systems operator on Buckley Air Force Base, Colorado.

Kap was one of 14 Air Force members who was selected to compete in the race. After receiving an email about the competition, Kap applied and was notified she had been selected only a few days before the race.

“It was very short notice,” said Kap. “But I was very excited.”
Traveling alone to Europe, Kap made the trek to the Malbork Castle, where she met with her new teammates.

“When we got there we began training almost immediately,” said Kap. “We had a lot of meetings and prepared for the competition.”

Come race-day, the Polish Air Force conducted a fly-over for the opening ceremonies of the event, and members of the Polish military represented each country by carrying the appropriate flag with the respected team marching behind them.

“Once they played our national anthem, I started to tear up,” said Kap. “I’ve never felt more proud of being in the Air Force than I had that day.”

Kap managed to take home the third place trophy for the U.S. team, and 11th individually. The U.S. took second place behind Poland, however, the U.S. took first place overall out of the four events: cross-country, tennis, volleyball and swimming.

Other nations participating were Belgium, the Netherlands, Italy and the U.K.

“Airman Kap ran extraordinarily well,” said Maj. Caitlin Thorn, chief of test Gray Wolf Program at the Air Force research lab on Eglin Air Force Base, Florida. “It was a tough course, but she was a key contributor to a second-place women’s team finish!”

Thorn, the team captain, ensured the team was mentally focused and prepared for the competition in the week leading up to the race.

“I have raced many of these events both in Europe and in the U.S. and it is a great experience every time,” said Thorn.

Kap, along with the rest of the U.S. teams, brought home the honors of a first place trophy and earned the chance to represent their country and service.

“That has been the best part of my Air Force career, and definitely one of the best experiences of my life,” said Kap.
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